Hannah Malvin’s wall is covered in pictures of past paths taken. There are scenic water shots, snow treks, and unfurling branches. The photos surround faces in squares on her laptop screen—she’s on a Zoom call for a virtual queer nature writing event hosted by Pride Outside.
Also on the call is writer Liz Weinberg, who guides the discussion from a hammock while her dog Pigeon barks in the background. She recognizes the irony of being simultaneously on her laptop and outdoors.
“It’s important to find places where we can rejuvenate and not stare at a Zoom screen,” she jokes.
Malvin, of Washington, DC, founded Pride Outside in August 2016, aiming to help connect the LGBTQ+ community with inclusive outdoor experiences such as hikes, courses, and walking tours. Like many organizations, the group made adaptations to a virtual world in the time of COVID-19, pivoting from in-person gatherings to virtual writing sessions and Zoom history lessons. Even still, Pride Outside continues to expand its impact through its many programs and foster connection—inside and out.
Before Pride Outside, Malvin worked on Capitol Hill with her hometown congressman, U.S. Representative Mike Doyle, co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus. She spent time sharing stories from the autism community and addressing intersectionality before moving into the outdoor space.
“Getting to work with the caucus was my early work in identity spaces,” she said.
In 2016, she blended her background in politics and recreation policy to build connections in the outdoor industry and ultimately boost representation and inclusion with Pride Outside.
“Connecting the LGBTQ community around the outdoors means a lot of things to me. It’s providing invitations for folks to have fun together outside, like an outdoor alternative to a happy hour,” she says. “Our first event was 10 friends on a hike, then we grew from there.”
As the Washington DC chapter expanded and Malvin began to receive more and more questions about how to find similar groups in other locations, it quickly became apparent to her that Pride Outside could fill a much bigger need.
“I noticed there was a lot of great work going on across the country but folks didn’t all know one another or work closely together on a national level, so I wanted to help support, amplify, and build on the work in that space,” she said. “After I kept saying, ‘I don’t know [where to find other groups],’ I realized, ‘Huh, maybe there’s a way to gather this information.’”
So she did just that.
Pride Outside teamed up with The Wilderness Society to launch the LGBTQ Outdoor Groups Map as a resource for folks across the country looking for queer outdoor groups. Since its launch in 2019, more than 50 groups have been added—from G.L.A.M. Rock Climbing in Austin and OUT THERE Missoula to the Mabel League Fastpitch, a Vancouver softball team open to lesbians, bisexual women, queer women, trans people, and women allies. The Different Strokes Dragon Boat Club in Sydney, Australia, is one of multiple international groups dotting the map.
The map also facilitates connections for parks, conservation organizations, and outdoor industry brands looking to work with local LGBTQ+ groups, and hosts a matching program that connects members to opportunities with the National Park Service and US Forest Service.
In 2020, Pride Outside’s Facebook page listed various virtual events and a slightly different logo—its original mountain range and rainbow, but with ‘Pride Inside’ scratched into place.
Through Zoom discussions, history lessons, and unique presentations covering how to connect with nature during COVID-19, Pride Outside members stayed close even from afar, with members tuning in from Oregon to Indiana.
“Coming together and learning about our community’s history can be extremely powerful,” Malvin says.
The LGBTQ History Night Series covered Unexpected Queer History, A Look Inside Harvey Milk’s Camera Shop, and the Queer History of Capitol Hill. Her favorite virtual events have been interviews with archivists from the Smithsonian Museum of American History’s LGBTQ collection, while the Queer Nature Writing sessions emphasize ways to explore the outdoors together, even when apart.
Toolan has found the sessions to be a great way to connect over common interests, even during quarantine. During the latest meeting, he held up his potted succulent to his laptop camera, gesturing with white sparkly nails. He recited to the group his writings about its pointed features and reliable presence. It was met with a screen full of smiles and nods.
“There’s always a way to connect to the outdoors,” Malvin says. “It doesn’t have to be huge epic adventures—it can be enjoying the stuff close to home.”
Since 2017, Pride Outside has also co-hosted the annual LGBTQ Outdoor Summit with Out There Adventures. After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the summit is back for 2022 with workshops and programs focused on inclusivity for the queer community as well as ways to diversify the outdoors. The summit works to create affinity groups for queer and trans people, and people of color.
“Space for connecting, sharing and healing,” Malvin says. “To dismantle white supremacy in ourselves and the environmental movement in society.”
Pride Outside member Liz Weinberg has attended the last two summits.
“Often as queer folks in the outdoors, we have to sort of either focus on our queer identities or outdoor identities,” she says. “A lot of times, I had my queer community in one place and then my outdoor community. The summit was this really amazing feeling, where on the whole, everyone there is a community with shared interests and experiences.”
Joe Toolan, an attendee from Annapolis, has especially appreciated the summit’s identity caucusing, in which group discussions are held for various identities such as race, economic background, and gender identity. “For me as a queer person of color, having a space to share those experiences had a really big impact,” he says.
Through all of Pride Outside’s programs—with more to come in the future—Malvin has found true fulfillment.
“I’ve loved getting to create community spaces where other people can find new friends and people to connect with—people like them.”
At Hipcamp, we care deeply about creating an inclusive, equitable, and diverse community with every Hipcamp Host that welcomes others and every Hipcamper that embarks on an adventure with us. That’s why #DiversityIsStrength is one of our core values—we believe Pride should be celebrated every day. Check out a Hipcamp Field Scout’s reflection on the 2017 LGBTQ Outdoor Summit.
Did this post inspire you to connect with a local LGBTQ group and spend more time in nature? Start planning your next trip now!
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